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【书籍搬运】A Dance in Fire, v3 火中舞——第三章

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原文地址:http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:A_Dance_in_Fire#Chapter_3

作者:渥金·贾思

翻译:花溪流萤

说完, Pascost大娘转身走进身后肮脏树洞之中,毫无疑问那里便是她的旅店。片刻之后,大娘拿出一张揉成一团的纸,纸上行文字迹潦草,无疑相当符合里奥德斯·居鲁斯风格。就着城市魁伟冠盖投射出的些微阳光,Decumus Scotti读起了信。

Sckotti,

见到这封信件,证明你已到达法林纳斯提!恭系(喜)你!我敢肯定你一路上肯定千辛万难。非常不行(幸),卧(我)并没有如你所相(想),待在旅店当中。当下,卧在西(溪)流下游一个名叫Athie的小镇等你。打(搭)船过来找我!这里很棒!希望你带了不少契约填单,当地很多建筑都要重建。他门(们)战争期间受到一些波及,但并没有产生大的破坏,所以还付得起钱。哈哈。尽快过来跟我见面。

居鲁斯

Scotti陷入沉思,居鲁斯已离开法林纳斯提前往一个叫做Athie的地方。只留下一张字迹潦草,拼写错误百出的字条,信中Athie实际所指可能是Athy, Aphy, Othry, Imthri, Urtha, 甚至Krakamaka。Scotti的理智告诉他,现下最好选择就是结束冒险,找条能回帝都的路,打道回府。他并非要钱不要命,唯利是图的商人:他是,至少曾是一家知名私人建筑委员会的高阶职员。但在过去数周之中,他先被卡萨-纳洗劫一空,接着又跟一群总嘲笑他的波兹莫人来了一场丛林死亡进军,一路之上饿得半死不说,好不容易吃顿饱饭,还被发酵猪奶灌醉,差点葬身虫口,随后更被一群弓手攻击。现在的他,又脏又累,身上仅剩十枚金币。现在可好,自己苦苦寻觅之人还放自己鸽子。明智的话,还是放弃这单生意好了。

然而,脑中一个音量虽小但是格外清晰的声音在告诉他:事已至此,与其回头,不如一条路走到黑。

他转过身来,只见哪位矮胖店主—Pascost大娘正在饶有趣味的看着自己。Scotti硬着头皮问道:“不知您知不知道附近一座名叫Ath-ie的村子?,呃,濒临最近同艾尔斯维尔的冲突地带。”

“你说的肯定是Athay,”大娘咧嘴笑道。“我的次子Viglil还在那办了一家牛奶厂。哪里环境很好,正挨着河。怎么,你的朋友到那去啦?”

“没错,”Scotti答道。“请问怎么到那最快?”

经过简短询问,Scotti迅速搭乘升降平台来到城市底部,一阵慢跑来到河岸搭船。靠岸船上站着一位金黄头发,面若腌鱼的高大波兹莫,自称叫做Balfix船长,但是仅凭Scotti也能看出他的本行。他或许是个等待被雇佣的海盗,亦或一个走私贩子,甚至比这更糟。他的船只,那艘帝国单桅帆船,毫无疑问也是从别处偷来的。

“只需五十金币,两天就到Athay,”波兹莫船长开出价码

“我只有十枚金币,不对,只剩九枚,”Scotti说道,说完自觉应当解释一下,便补充道,“本来我有十枚,但是为了下来,我付给摆渡工一枚。”

“九枚也成,”船长一口答应下来。“实话跟你说吧,我正要去Athay,付不付钱我都得走。上船之后,一切请便,我们稍后出发。”

Decumus Scotti登上船来,这艘船舶吃水颇深,船上仓库被板条箱以及麻袋塞得满满当当,甲板之上同样堆满货物。从标签看,每件货物都很正常(呼应上文走私贩子):铜屑,猪油,墨水,高岩肉品(上面印有牛肉字样),焦油,以及冻鱼。Scotti一直好奇,这些里面装的到底都是什么东西。

Balfix花了不少时间才把剩余货物拖曳上船,虽说不算“稍后”,但是一个小时之内,货船终于起锚,向着下游Athay驶去。四周灰绿河水平静无浪,仅在微风吹拂之际泛起些微涟漪。两岸植物郁郁葱葱,隐隐约约有动物在互相唱和嬉戏,咆哮示威。安详氛围之下,Scotti很快沉沉睡去。

醒来已是半夜,船长Balfix递来一些干净衣物以及食物,令他非常感激。

“冒昧问下,你到Athay作甚?”晚餐进行之中,波兹莫询问他道

“我去会见一位昔日同僚,他把我从帝都的阿特利乌斯建筑委员会邀请过来,帮他谈些生意。”Scotti啃了腌火腿肠一口,旋又说道,“我们准备修缮桥梁,道路,以及其他战争期间遭到虎人破坏的基础设施。”

“最近这两年世道不平稳,”船长点头附和。“不过我们以及你的朋友因为商路被毁能发笔财(两个修路,一个水路)。现在据说又要跟夏暮岛开战,你听说了吗?”

Scotti摇了摇头。

“我曾通过海路走私过斯酷玛,甚至帮助不少革命志士逃脱鬃毛长老(虎人精神领袖)追杀。但是现在好了,战争让我沦为一名无趣的合法商人,战争总是先让坏蛋遭殃。”

Scotti对此表示遗憾,随后两人盯着平静河水之中的星月倒影陷入了沉默。次日, Scotti醒来之后发现船长正醉醺醺的站在船舱,嘴里低声哼着小曲。看到Scotti起来之后,顺手递来一壶 jagga。

“西十字路口受了教训之后,我可不敢再喝这个东西。”

听到这句,船长忍不住大笑起来,笑着笑着逐渐开始痛哭,“我不想做合法生意。我以前的同伙现在还在烧杀劫掠,走私毒品,把你这样的老好人当奴隶贩卖。对天发誓,我从来不曾想过竟会落到今天这般田地,运送一船合法物资,这算什么!”哦,我懂了,我必须回去同他们为伍,但是强盗之神不再怜悯我,我已是废人一个。”

Scotti扶着这位精灵走出船舱,不住低声安慰着他。到达甲板之时,转而问道。“恕我唐突,现在我们到哪里了?”

“哦,”船长Balfix有气无力的呻吟道。“我们出来的正是时候,转弯就到Athay了。”

“但是那里好像失火了,”Scotti指着前方浓烟说道

Balfix定睛望去,果有沥青一般浓黑烟柱从树后面腾空而起,等到转过弯来,映入眼帘的先是熊熊火焰,接着便是已被烧焦的建筑框架,浑身火焰,奄奄一息的村民正不断从石上跳入河中逃生,耳旁满是刺耳哭泣之声。村庄边缘,手持火把的虎人兵士正在不停巡视。

“强盗之神在上!”船长颤抖着咕哝道。“又要打仗!”

“哦,不”Scotti也哭喊道。

帆船顺着水流逐渐驶离着火城镇,向着对岸驶去。Scotti忙将目光投向对岸,急于寻找一个庇护场所。自己要求不高,只要有个树木能够躲避,能让自己远离人间地狱就好。就在这时,对岸树林传来悉悉索索的树叶摩擦声,一群携带着弓箭的虎人战士,轻巧的从枝头跳落面。

“我们被发现了,”Scotti牙齿打着颤,嘶嘶的说。“他们还有弓箭。”

“废话,他们自然有弓,” Balfix船长咆哮说道。“虽说是我们波兹莫研究出的这种凶器,但是我们从没想过将它列为机密,明白了吧,你这该死狗官。”

“现在,他们还点燃了箭头!”

“没错,他们经常会这么干。”

“船长,他们还是朝我们放箭啦!他们用带火的箭射我们啦!”

“嘛,我知道了,”船长附和道。“当务之急是莫要被箭射中。”

然而好景不长,很快船只就中了几箭。雪上加霜的是,第二波箭恰巧射中船上所载焦油,随后整个船只陷入一片炽热火海,蓝色火焰不断舔舐肆虐,赶在船体彻底解体之前,Scott抓起(醉醺醺的)Balfix船长,一齐纵入河中逃命。跌入冰凉河水之后,Scotti立即马不停蹄的以最大速度向来时弯道游去,这时,经过河水刺激,已经有些清醒下来的波兹莫叫住了他。

“Decumus大人,你这是要去那啊?”

“当然是回法林纳斯提!”Scotti叫道

“那可得好几天,等你到了,Athay遇袭的消息早就传过去了!他们不会放任生人进城!河的下游不远,有个叫Grenos的村子,不如先去那里避上一避!”

听到这里,Scotti游回船长身边。之后,两人开始并肩从河中心,游过正在燃烧的村庄,向着下游游去。感谢玛拉,自己还会游泳。要知道,赛瑞迪尔绝大部分面积都是内陆,所以很多帝国人都是旱鸭子。如果自己长在 Mir Corrup或是Artemon,恐怕早已溺死,还好帝都四面环水,帝都每一个人都能泅渡四周水域,即便那些养尊处优,并不四处冒险的职员也会两下子。

随着Balfix船长逐渐适应水温,他的神智又开始迷糊了。即便是在冬令,Xylo河水温度仍很适中,置身其中,甚至有些舒服。波兹莫的划水节奏逐渐开始紊乱,有时紧跟Scotti,有时突然落到后面很远,有时忽然领先很多,一会儿又慢了下来。

路上,Scotti望向河流右岸:只见大火正在顺着树木蔓延开来,身后已是一片地狱火海,并对自己紧追不舍。左岸虽然看来略微平静,但是芦苇荡中一直有些响动,仔细一看方才发现那是一群自己之前从未见过的大猫。它们毛呈赭色,生有一双碧眼,长着梦魇之中方能一见的致命爪牙。它们一路盯着两人,速度不徐不疾,恰与二人同步。

“Balfix船长,我们不管在那登岸都是死路一条,要么被烧死,要么被吃掉,”Scotti悄声说道。“首先平衡一下身体节奏,然后注意保持呼吸节奏。如果累了,告我一声,我们顺河漂流休息一下。”

众所周知,指望一个醉鬼听从建议根本就是天方夜谭。所以Scotti只得放弃自己节奏,跟着船长忽快忽慢,忽左忽右,波兹莫则自顾自的哼着旧时海盗歌谣。照看同伴之余,他仍不时留心岸边大猫。游了一段路程之后,望向右岸,有一处村庄被付之一炬,毫无疑问正是Grenos。Scotti只顾盯着火焰发呆,根本没有留意身边歌声早已消失。

当他转过头时,船长Balfix已经不知去向。

Scotti潜入河底数次苦苦找寻,始终一无所获。当他最后一次浮出水面之后,岸上大猫已经离开,或许是认为自己也被淹死了。接着,他独自朝着下游游去,游到前方,岸边火势终被横向支流隔断。但是此时岸边再无城镇。又过几个小时,他开始考虑上岸问题,但问题是到底应该在那边靠岸。

终于,他不需选择了。前方赫然出现一块岩礁,礁上燃有篝火,虽然不知上面是敌是友,但是自己实在游不动了。不得已间,只好拖着疲惫身躯爬了上去。

不用对方开口,他便一眼看出,岛上皆是波兹莫难民。火上尚留一只巨猫大腿,正是先前对岸尾行自己大猫群中一只。

“这是胜辙虎族,”一位年轻战士一面大嚼其肉一面解释着“它们不是动物—它们可不比卡萨-纳或者奥莫斯亦或其他该死的虎人族笨。不能亲手把它宰掉真是遗憾,见到它时,它早就淹死了。不过,肉味还行,你肯定会喜欢。毕竟这帮蠢货喜欢吃月亮糖,所以味道很甜。”

Scotti不知自己能否忍心去吃一个同人和精灵一般拥有智慧的生物,但几天来他已多次做出出格举动,所以这次也没避讳。猫肉细腻丝滑,结实多汁,不需调料,便同洒了蜜般香甜。吃饭间隙,他环顾了人群一圈。这些难民来自Grenos 以及Athay两村,脸上均有悲色,其中一人更是因为失去家庭啜泣不已。为何虎人再次发动袭击?为什么—对于一个他这样的帝国人来说,问题百思不得其解—为何帝国不对自己辖省内战进行干预?

当他得知一位波兹莫少女乃是来自Athay之时,连忙上前问道,“我来这里想要会见另一位帝国人,他的名字叫做里奥德斯· 居鲁斯。不知你是否知道他的下落。”

“虽然我不认识你的朋友,但是当火燃起之时,Athay的确是有不少帝国人。”女孩说道。“我想,其中一些已经逃出。接着他们会去 Vindisi,那座城市位于内陆密林之中(暂时安全),明天我们也要去那。如果你不介意,可以和我们一道儿过去。”

Decumus Scotti认真点了点头。是夜,他一直尽力适应河中小岛的多石地表,经过不懈尝试,终于还是睡下了,但是睡得很不踏实。

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Mother Pascost disappeared into the sordid hole that was her tavern, and emerged a moment later with a scrap of paper with Liodes Jurus's familiar scrawl. Decumus Scotti held it up before a patch of sunlight that had found its way through the massive boughs of the tree city, and read.


Sckotti,



So you made it to Falinnesti, Vallinwood! Congradulatens! Im sure you had quit a adventure getting here. Unfortonitly, Im not here anymore as you probaby guess. Theres a town down rivver called Athie Im at. Git a bote and join me! Its ideal! I hope you brot a lot of contracks, cause these peple need a lot of building done. They wer close to the war, you see, but not so close they dont have any mony left to pay. Ha ha. Meat me down here as son as you can.



-- Jurus

So, Scotti pondered, Jurus had left Falinesti and gone to some place called Athie. Given his poor penmanship and ghastly spelling, it could equally well be Athy, Aphy, Othry, Imthri, Urtha, or Krakamaka. The sensible thing to do, Scotti knew, was to call this adventure over and try to find some way to get back home to the Imperial City. He was no mercenary devoted to a life of thrills: he was, or at least had been, a senior clerk at a successful private building commission. Over the last few weeks, he had been robbed by the Cathay-Raht, taken on a death march through the jungle by a gang of giggling Bosmeri, half-starved to death, drugged with fermented pig's milk, nearly slain by some kind of giant tick, and attacked by archers. He was filthy, exhausted, and had, he counted, ten gold pieces to his name. Now the man whose proposal brought him to the depths of misery was not even there. It was both judicious and seemly to abandon the enterprise entirely.
And yet, a small but distinct voice in his head told him: You have been chosen. You have no other choice but to see this through.
Scotti turned to the stout old woman, Mother Pascost, who had been watching him curiously: "I was wondering if you knew of a village that was at the edge of the recent conflict with Elsweyr. It's called something like Ath-ie?"
"You must mean Athay," she grinned. "My middle lad, Viglil, he manages a dairy down there. Beautiful country, right on the river. Is that where your friend went?"
"Yes," said Scotti. "Do you know the fastest way to get there?"
After a short conversation, an even shorter ride to Falinesti's roots by way of the platforms, and a jog to the river bank, Scotti was negotiating transport with a huge fair-haired Bosmer with a face like a pickled carp. He called himself Captain Balfix, but even Scotti with his sheltered life could recognize him for what he was. A retired pirate for hire, a smuggler for certain, and probably much worse. His ship, which had clearly been stolen in the distant past, was a bent old Imperial sloop.
"Fifty gold and we'll be in Athay in two days time," boomed Captain Balfix expansively.
"I have ten, no, sorry, nine gold pieces," replied Scotti, and feeling the need for explanation, added, "I had ten, but I gave one to the Platform Ferryman to get me down here."
"Nine is just as fine," said the captain agreeably. "Truth be told, I was going to Athay whether you paid me or not. Make yourself comfortable on the boat, we'll be leaving in just a few minutes."
Decumus Scotti boarded the vessel, which sat low in the water of the river, stacked high with crates and sacks that spilled out of the hold and galley and onto the deck. Each was marked with stamps advertising the most innocuous substances: copper scraps, lard, ink, High Rock meal (marked "For Cattle"), tar, fish jelly. Scotti's imagination reeled picturing what sorts of illicit imports were truly aboard.
It took more than those few minutes for Captain Balfix to haul in the rest of his cargo, but in an hour, the anchor was up and they were sailing downriver towards Athay. The green gray water barely rippled, only touched by the fingers of the breeze. Lush plant life crowded the banks, obscuring from sight all the animals that sang and roared at one another. Lulled by the serene surroundings, Scotti drifted to sleep.
At night, he awoke and gratefully accepted some clean clothes and food from Captain Balfix.
"Why are you going to Athay, if I may ask?" queried the Bosmer.
"I'm meeting a former colleague there. He asked me to come down from the Imperial City where I worked for the Atrius Building Commission to negotiate some contracts," Scotti took another bite of the dried sausages they were sharing for dinner. "We're going to try to repair and refurbish whatever bridges, roads, and other structures that got damaged in the recent war with theKhajiiti."
"It's been a hard two years," the captain nodded his head. "Though I suppose good for me and the likes of you and your friend. Trade routes cut off. Now they think there's going to be war with theSummurset Isles, you heard that?"
Scotti shook his head.
"I've done my share of smuggling skooma down the coast, even helping some revolutionary types escape the Mane's wrath, but now the wars've made me a legitimate trader, a business-man. The first casualties of war is always the corrupted."
Scotti said he was sorry to hear that, and they lapsed into silence, watching the stars and moons' reflection on the still water. The next day, Scotti awoke to find the captain wrapped up in his sail, torpid from alcohol, singing in a low, slurred voice. When he saw Scotti rise, he offered his flagon of jagga.
"I learned my lesson during revelry at western cross."
The captain laughed, and then burst into tears, "I don't want to be legitimate. Other pirates I used to know are still raping and stealing and smuggling and selling nice folk like you into slavery. I swear to you, I never thought the first time that I ran a real shipment of legal goods that my life would turn out like this. Oh, I know, I could go back to it, but Baan Dar knows not after all I've seen. I'm a ruined man."
Scotti helped the weeping mer out of the sail, murmuring words of reassurance. Then he added, "Forgive me for changing the subject, but where are we?"
"Oh," moaned Captain Balfix miserably. "We made good time. Athay's right around the bend in the river."
"Then it looks like Athay's on fire," said Scotti, pointing.
A great plume of smoke black as pitch was rising above the trees. As they drifted around the bend, they next saw the flames, and then the blackened skeletal remains of the village. Dying, blazing villagers leapt from rocks into the river. A cacophony of wailing met their ears, and they could see, roaming along the edges of the town, the figures of Khajiiti soldiers bearing torches.
"Baan Dar bless me!" slurred the captain. "The war's back on!"
"Oh, no," whimpered Scotti.
The sloop drifted with the current toward the opposite shore away from the fiery town. Scotti turned his attention there, and the sanctuary it offered. Just a peaceful arbor, away from the horror. There was a shudder of leaves in two of the trees and a dozen lithe Khajiit dropped to the ground, armed with bows.
"They see us," hissed Scotti. "And they've got bows!"
"Well, of course they have bows," snarled Captain Balfix. "We Bosmer may have invented the bloody things, but we didn't think to keep them secret, you bloody bureaucrat."
"Now, they're setting their arrows on fire!"
"Yes, they do that sometimes."
"Captain, they're shooting at us! They're shooting at us with flaming arrows!"
"Ah, so they are," the captain agreed. "The aim here is to avoid being hit."
But hit they were, and very shortly thereafter. Even worse, the second volley of arrows hit the supply of pitch, which ignited in a tremendous blue blaze. Scotti grabbed Captain Balfix and they leapt overboard just before the ship and all its cargo disintegrated. The shock of the cold water brought the Bosmer into temporary sobriety. He called to Scotti, who was already swimming as fast as he could toward the bend.
"Master Decumus, where do you think you're swimming to?"
"Back to Falinesti!" cried Scotti.
"It will take you days, and by the time you get there, everyone will know about the attack on Athay! They'll never let anyone they don't know in! The closest village downriver is Grenos, maybe they'll give us shelter!"
Scotti swam back to the captain and side-by-side they began paddling in the middle of the river, past the burning residuum of the village. He thanked Mara that he had learned to swim. Many aCyrodiil did not, as largely land-locked as the Imperial Province was. Had he been raised in Mir Corrup or Artemon, he might have been doomed, but the Imperial City itself was encircled by water, and every lad and lass there knew how to cross without a boat. Even those who grew up to be clerks and not adventurers.
Captain Balfix's sobriety faded as he grew used to the water's temperature. Even in wintertide, the Xylo River was fairly temperate and after a fashion, even comfortable. The Bosmer's strokes were uneven, and he'd stray closer to Scotti and then further away, pushing ahead and then falling behind.
Scotti looked to the shore to his right: the flames had caught the trees like tinder. Behind them was an inferno, with which they were barely keeping pace. To the shore on their left, all looked fair, until he saw a tremble in the river-reeds, and then what caused it. A pride of the largest cats he had ever seen. They were auburn-haired, green-eyed beasts with jaws and teeth to match his wildest nightmares. And they were watching the two swimmers, and keeping pace.
"Captain Balfix, we can't go to either that shore or the other one, or we'll be parboiled or eaten," Scotti whispered. "Try to even your kicking and your strokes. Breath like you would normally. If you're feeling tired, tell me, and we'll float on our backs for a while."
Anyone who has had the experience of giving rational advice to a drunkard would understand the hopelessness. Scotti kept pace with the captain, slowing himself, quickening, drifting left and right, while the Bosmer moaned old ditties from his pirate days. When he wasn't watching his companion, he watched the cats on the shore. After a stretch, he turned to his right. Another village had caught fire. Undoubtedly, it was Grenos. Scotti stared at the blazing fury, awed by the sight of the destruction, and did not hear that the captain had ceased to sing.
When he turned back, Captain Balfix was gone.
Scotti dove into the murky depths of the river over and over again. There was nothing to be done. When he surfaced after his final search, he saw that the giant cats had moved on, perhaps assuming that he too had drowned. He continued his lonely swim downriver. A tributary, he noted, had formed a final barrier, keeping the flames from spreading further. But there were no more towns. After several hours, he began to ponder the wisdom of going ashore. Which shore was the question.
He was spared the decision. Ahead of him was a rocky island with a bonfire. He did not know if he were intruding on a party of Bosmeri or Khajiiti, only that he could swim no more. With straining, aching muscles, he pulled himself onto the rocks.
They were Bosmer refugees he gathered, even before they told him. Roasting over the fire was the remains of one of the giant cats that had been stalking him through the jungle on the opposite shore.
"Senche-Tiger," said one of the young warriors ravenously. "It's no animal -- it's as smart as any Cathay-Raht or Ohmes or any other bleeding Khajiiti. Pity this one drowned. I would have gladly killed it. You'll like the meat, though. Sweet, from all the sugar these asses eat."
Scotti did not know if he was capable of eating a creature as intelligent as a man or mer, but he surprised himself, as he had done several times over the last days. It was rich, succulent, and sweet, like sugared pork, but no seasonings had been added. He surveyed the crowd as he ate. A sad lot, some still weeping for lost family members. They were the survivors of both the villages of Grenos and Athay, and war was on every person's lips. Why had the Khajiiti attacked again? Why -- specifically directed at Scotti, as a Cyrodiil -- why was the Emperor not enforcing peace in his provinces?
"I was to meet another Cyrodiil," he said to a Bosmer maiden who he understood to be from Athay. "His name was Liodes Jurus. I don't suppose you know what might have happened to him."
"I don't know your friend, but there were many Cyrodiils in Athay when the fire came," said the girl. "Some of them, I think, left quickly. They were going to Vindisi, inland, in the jungle. I am going there tomorrow, so are many of us. If you wish, you may come as well."
Decumus Scotti nodded solemnly. He made himself as comfortable as he could in the stony ground of the river island, and somehow, after much effort, he fell asleep. But he did not sleep well.

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